The 41-year-old wants to lower the women’s half marathon masters world record.
Lest you think Deena Kastor has eased into life as a post-Olympic masters runner, eating Bonbons and watching soaps with her feet propped up on the ottoman, consider her recent day while not exactly chilling in Mammoth Lakes.
Up at 6:30 to fix breakfast for the brood, including husband/coach Andrew Kastor and 3-year-old daughter, Piper, feed dog, dress Piper for first day of preschool (“I had to make sure her outfit was adorable”), drop off Piper at school, 10-mile easy run, 1-hour phone interview with journalist, pick up Piper at school, picnic with Piper, buy two birthday presents, deliver birthday presents, work on computer, a necessity as president of the Mammoth Track Club, walk dog, head to gym for 5 p.m. workout while Piper practices fending off future males at karate class, treat Piper to seaweed salad at favorite bistro, dinner with family, feed dog, walk with Piper, Andrew and dog, read Piper bedtime stories, collapse.
“And that,” says Kastor, “was an easy day.”
Unquestionably the greatest American women’s distance runner of the last quarter century (see Athens Olympic marathon bronze medal; U.S. women’s records in half marathon and marathon), at 41 Kastor is pulling off the wife/mother/athlete/entrepreneur juggling act without shattering any plates.
Come Sunday, she’ll race at the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Her goal is not a modest one: set the women’s masters world record. The mark: 1 hour, 9 minutes, 56 seconds, set by Russia’s Irina Permitina on Sept. 13, 2008.
Kastor figures to threaten Permitina’s mark.
In April, Kastor tackled the More Fitness Half Marathon in Central Park. Despite having to zig-zag her way through walkers on the second loop of the hilly course, Kastor erased Colleen De Reuck’s American record by 12 seconds, winning in 1:11:38.
Making up 1:43 to break Permitina’s record sounds unfathomable, but consider these points:
— The course is much faster than New York
— Kastor has a history of running well in Philly (she set an American record there in 2005)
— She’s in fantastic shape, running recent workouts comparable to when she was leading up to the Athens Games. Try breaking running 10:50 to 10:55 for 2-mile repeats at 9,000 feet above sea level. Those workout times back in 2004: 10:45.
Some other benchmark workouts are not far off her 2004 times, moving Kastor to admit she’s “toying with the idea” of trying to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in the marathon. If successful, Barcelona would represent her fourth Olympics.
Kastor attributes part of her success at 41 to being happy with where she is in life. The transition from elite pro to masters runner began shortly after the 2012 Olympic marathon trials.
Kastor finished a disappointing sixth in 2:30:40, more than five minutes behind Shalane Flanagan’s winning time of 2:25:38.
Former coach Terence Mahon dropped the “You’ve got to think about what you want to do in retirement” hint. Andrew and Deena thought far outside the box. An excellent cook, Deena considered running a food truck. Then she bounced the idea of buying an oversized van and touring the country by land, giving Piper an educational travel tour.
Eventually, it sank in that running had opened so many doors the past three decades, that it was her in her blood, her lifestyle and decided, “Why would I want to hang up my shoes?”
So she didn’t. About that same time, Mahon landed a new job and asked if Andrew and Deena might want to run the Mammoth Track Club. The Kastors said yes, but wanted to tweak the program. Instead of limiting the club to some of the best runners in the United States, Andrew and Deena wanted a more inclusive, grassroots feel, opening their arms to dedicated amateur runners.
So now Lauren Kleppin, third at this year’s Los Angeles Marathon, might be mingling on the infield with an attorney, doctor or high school student, trading the merits of hill repeats.
Slice it together and Kastor’s world is a busy one. Elite runner. Brand ambassador for Asics. Mentor for the elite Mammoth runners. Wife, mother. And she likes that balance.
“As they say,” says Andrew, “a happy athlete is a fast athlete.”
Naturally, Deena loves talking about her 3-year-old daughter. In fact, Kastor keeps a journal, logging insights Piper passes along. And Piper is already a runner in training, joining mom for some early evening short jogs.
“If someone says, ‘Oh, I love our shoes,’” says Kastor, “she’ll say, ‘They’re not shoes. They’re Asics.’ Even at 3 she’s brand conscious.
“She’s at this age where they just pick up everything. Every day we have to create things to stimulate her. We’ll take a ride up the mountain on the gondola. We’ll count to 10 in Spanish. We’ll make fairy boxes to put in the forest so the fairies will have places to live.”
But on the child front, Deena is one and done.
Asked if another child’s in the future, Kastor blurts out, “Hell, no.”
Another Olympics, though, might be in the cards. First, though, comes Sunday’s race date in Philadelphia.